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Impressive in Defeat

USC hopes dashed by LSU rally

Published on 10/19/08
BY TRAVIS HANEY
The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Stephen Garcia could only look at the turf as the final

seconds ticked off late Saturday night.

South Carolina's freshman

quarterback played hero last week at Kentucky. And again early against Louisiana State in his first career start.

But his cape ran out of magic. The Tigers' defense made sure of it.

The Gamecocks put up 17 second-quarter points, but the offense went silent in the second half and LSU did enough for a 24-17 victory in front of 82,477 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"It came down to getting our butts beat in the second half," USC coach Steve Spurrier said. "We had no offense at all in the second half. That would've been helpful if we could've done something."

Each of South Carolina's five SEC games has been settled by a touchdown. The Gamecocks (5-3, 2-3) have now lost three of them.

In fact, 12 of Spurrier's 19 losses in three-plus years at USC have come by seven or fewer points.

Saturday, it certainly looked for a time that South Carolina might come away with its fifth straight victory, and third consecutive league win.

The Gamecocks held a 17-10 lead at the half, and they had outgained the

defending national champions 212-179 for two quarters.

But things changed in a hurry.

With what LSU coach Les Miles classified as "a couple adjustments" — and a lot of heat — the Tigers got to Garcia and stymied the Gamecocks.

An LSU defense that had just nine sacks coming in sacked Garcia, who played the entire game, six times.

The Gamecocks had allowed an SEC-high 24 sacks coming in.

"We came after him," Miles said.

To Spurrier, the Tigers were just rougher and tougher up front.

"I guess physically we didn't quite match up all the way around," he said.

USC managed just 42 second-half yards — and minus-13 yards on the ground.

The Gamecocks finished with 254 total yards, a paltry 39 on the ground.

They didn't get anywhere near rushing for 100 yards in an SEC game for the first time this year.

Senior Mike Davis led the team with 23 yards (2.3 yards a carry).

Meanwhile, the USC defense, ranked third in the country in total defense coming in, did its best to keep the team hanging around.

But LSU went on the game's key drive when it counted.

An 11-play, 83-yard drive ate up six minutes, 24 seconds in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers converted three third-down conversions, including Charles Scott's 2-yard scoot into the end zone on third-and-goal.

South Carolina was second in the SEC in third-down conversions entering the game, but the Gamecocks were just 1 of 9 Saturday.

Garcia played nearly the perfect first half, accounting for 201 total yards and a score. He finished with 235 total yards, 215 through the air on 14 of 26 passing.

He committed no first-half turnovers, but fumbled early in the second half to change field position. An interception by LSU's Curtis Taylor, with about four minutes to play, allowed the Tigers to run out the clock.

Spurrier said he probably asked Garcia to do too much in his first start.

"He was learning," Spurrier said, adding that he'll start Nov. 1 against Tennessee if he's healthy. "It's all learning for him."

One play typified the second-half frustration for the Gamecocks.

On third-and-18 late in the third quarter, just after Garcia had taken the team's fifth sack, Garcia avoided a heavy rush and rolled out to the left. LSU's defensive back came up to defend Garcia, leaving Kenny McKinley all by himself down the field.

On what could've been a touchdown play in a 17-17 game, Garcia put too much air under the ball, McKinley slipped and the ball hit him in the facemask to go incomplete.

"Who knows what would've happened," Spurrier said. "It was a tough night."

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com and check out the South Carolina blog at www.charleston.net/blogs/gamecocks.

SOURCE: Click here

GO GAMECOCKS!